Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

Testing the waters across New England, we uncover nine beauties worth their salt—or lack thereof.

The Case for the Lakes

#1. THE TRAFFIC You, the jamoke driving to Cape Cod on an average day: Enjoy your crawl along Route 6 with some 52,000 other vehicles. You, the genius driving to Rangeley Lake in Maine: Wave amicably to Route 4’s 10,000 other enlightened motorists (and odd wayward moose).

#2. THE RELAXATION FACTOR Those foaming, crashing waves—the ocean is dressed to titillate in the most obvious way. There’s just something tacky in all that storming and carrying-on. Lakes, by contrast, play the coquette, gazing shyly from the woods, the birches around their fringes fluttering like eyelashes. Okay, I stole that last bit from Thoreau. But there’s a guy who knew his bodies of water, having spent the better part of two years beside one. “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature,” he wrote in Walden. “It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Isn’t that the point? No one goes to the ocean to navel-gaze. The ocean inspires grand imaginings of sailing forth like Ulysses to explore the world and…blah, blah, blah. All well and good if it weren’t for the three kids and two bosses riding us hard in this one. Oceans jazz us up, agitate. Lakes relax us. Lakes are crossable. Lakes are about diving into ourselves. Looking out onto a surface as shiny and flat as mica, a can of Bud in one hand, we smooth our internal ripples. At least until the Bud kicks in.

#3. THE WATER TEMPS The sun is out of its depth when it comes to the Atlantic, ensuring that ocean temps barely nudge out of the 60s. (Goose bumps and bikinis: not a good look.) Our relatively shallow lakes soak up the rays like wanton sunbathers, heating into the upper 70s, even into the 80s.

#4. THE SWIMMING PARTNERS Oceans have flesh-eating sharks and jellyfish whose yicky, gelatinous bodies are churning with stinging venom. Lakes have turtles.